Kevin Standlee (kevin_standlee) wrote,
Kevin Standlee
kevin_standlee

Business Meeting Editing

I spent much of yesterday editing the video of the Westercon 64 Business Meeting. I'm glad we did a two-camera shoot, even though I used almost none of the footage from Camera 1, because if we'd only recorded Camera 1, we would have had pretty bad audio. For some reason, even though the two cameras were roughly symmetrically arranged, Camera 2 (the one to stage right, where Lisa was) picked up the audio in the room much better, so I mostly stuck with it except for a few "fill" shots where sound wasn't that important.

It appears to take about as much time for MovieMaker to generate a video as the video itself runs, and possibly longer, so I left it cranking away on the job this morning when I headed to the office. Assuming it finishes without an error, when I get home tonight after BASFA I will start the long process of uploading the video to Vimeo. (YouTube's upload limits would make a 2h15m video impossible.) Then Vimeo will think about it for a while. I will announce when the video is finished.

Watching myself preside, I'm annoyed with all of the technical and mechanical errors I made along the way. Most of you there may not have noticed them, and those who did, like Ben Yalow, apparently decided that they weren't substantive enough to justify calling me on, for which I'm grateful. Also, being able to think about my rulings in colder blood leaves me wondering if I made the right call. This isn't just a theoretical question. Since this situation has never come up since the current version of Westercon Site Selection was established, everything I did was precedent-setting, and I am worried that I may have set bad precedents should this situation ever happen again.

Some things were easy: The person who wanted to lay Site Selection business on the table and pass Bylaw amendments that would 'fix' the problem couldn't have his way. While it would certainly have been in order to lay Site Selection on the table (that sets it aside temporarily without establishing a fixed time to bring it back up), passing Bylaw amendments wouldn't do much good, as they'd have to be ratified next year in Seattle and, generally speaking, wouldn't even be in effect until after the 2012 Westercon.

Similarly, the people who proposed Suspending the Bylaws (although they didn't use those exact words) to 'fix' the problem were not reading the Bylaws correctly. Yes, the Section 3.16 rules, for use whenever the written ballot fails to produce a winning qualified candidate, give the Business Meeting a lot of flexibility, although it's tempered by the need for a hyper-majority of 3/4. However, you cannot suspend your own Bylaws unless those Bylaws explicitly provide for their own suspension, and Westercon's do not. Bylaws (and Constitutions, which are generally equivalent in modern parliamentary law) are deliberately supposed to be difficult to amend and to get around, because among other things, they're supposed to be checks on passions of the moment, and oboy did we have passions at that meeting!

More worrisome to me was when I ruled out of order a motion to take a vote between the four proposed sites by written preferential ballot. My justification was that the Section 3.16 rules are specifically for cases in which a written ballot has failed. However, I can see that a written preferential ballot, with the four sites and None of the Above listed, and a 3/4 majority required (so that if no candidate polls 3/4, the lowest-ranked candidate is eliminated and its votes redistributed), might be allowed. Still, nobody decided to appeal my ruling, which would have taken a majority to overturn my decision that we would have to vote on the candidates one at a time, with a 3/4 vote required in any particular case.

Now I can see a sort of good reason for sticking with serial voting such as we did, but it's more of a practical one than a parliamentary one. The process through which we went on July 3 was uncomfortable for everyone. Yes, I'm grateful for all of the praise I received for mostly keeping things under control, but even I was uncomfortable up there, and I daresay most of the people in that room would have rather been somewhere else rather than cooped up in the increasingly-hot Club Regent room arguing fine points of procedure for more than three hours. (The video runs only 2h15m because of recesses and committee of the whole time.) Maybe that's good: Section 3.16 situations aren't supposed to be easy, any more than amending one's bylaws. You have to have a darn good reason for going there. Indeed, I reckon that the results in San José this year will make future voters less liable to vote for a joke bid because they don't necessarily want to be party to another Site Selection Marathon.

For all of the parliamentary pain we went through, I still think the Westercon system is the right one. I've heard more than one person complain that we shouldn't even count votes for ineligible candidates, or else we should adopt the Worldcon system whereby votes for ineligible bids are dropped after the first round. To that I point out that the alternative there is for semi-serious protest bids like Granzella's to tell their supporters to vote None of the Above as their first choice. Had that happened in this election, NOTA would have polled 43 votes and won the election, and we would have ended up in the Business Meeting anyway, except this time, we couldn't have even considered a bid from the Portland group that originally bid, or (in my opinion) any group substantially the same as Portland's bid. That would actually have been worse, as under the circumstances that actually obtained, Portland had one last chance to pull out a victory had they done a better job of presenting themselves to the Business Meeting.

I think that semi-serious bid like Granzella's and Tonopah last year act as a valuable safety valve in our election process, as they remind fully-serious bidders that even being the only candidate on the ballot is no guarantee of success unless you actually prove that you can "show openers" in our political process by presenting a credible bid. Poker players may consider it as requiring bids to have "jacks or better" to stay in the game.
Tags: business meeting, site selection, westercon
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